Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Blind Leading the Blind

Today is Christmas Eve. In my family Christmas Eve was never that big of a deal. We always put up our tree around Dec. 15 and on Dec. 24, we usually just sat around watching TV and drinking hot chocolate (kind of like what I am doing today). However, Christmas Eve in Germany is the BIG DAY.

Germans have a whole ritual of traditions for Christmas Eve. Although there are some regional and family differences, I discovered many similarities while talking with my students this week.

On Christmas Eve, the parents lock the children out of the living room and put up their Christmas tree (although some families do this together). The children play and then the family sits down and has dinner together, which is usually potato salad and sausages. During dinner, the Christ Child comes and places the Christmas presents under the tree. Then a bell is rung and the children race into the living room to discover their tree and rip open their presents.

I heard another variation of this tradition, in which everyone goes to Church after dinner and when they get home the children discover that the Christ Child has been there and the presents are opened.

Regardless of the order, it is important to note that today the Christ Child brings presents, which are then opened on Dec. 24.

I find this highly illogical. I tried to discuss it with the German.

Claire: It just makes no sense. Someone is in the house, while you are there AND awake. How are kids supposed to believe that?? The American tradition is much more logical.

The German: Seriously? Americans are logical?

Claire: Yes. We only have one person, Santa (aka St. Nick, Father Christmas, etc., Germans have St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 and the Christ Child on Dec. 24). It makes a lot more sense that we cannot see Santa because he only comes when you are asleep. It is a lot easier to believe and is why opening Christmas presents must be on the morning of Dec. 25.

The German: (smirking) A fat guy in a red suit breaks into your house via a chimney, and you are telling me that is logical.

Claire: Hmm, I see your point.

________________

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Making Me Oh So Proud

Last Saturday the German and I went to his soccer team's annual Christmas party. This year the team met at the Christmas Market and then went to a restaurant for dinner. As I had gotten tipsy at my company's Christmas party the night before, we decided that the German could drink and I would drive.

Everything was going well until about 11:00pm. The coach of the team gave little speech and then said, "Every year we like to honor our newest members by having them preform a little task." Uh oh. The German was the only new member at the dinner.

"German, you have 30 minutes to find yourself a festive Christmas costume and then come back and sing a Christmas song for us. You cannot buy anything, but you must find it."

I looked more panicky than the German. Of coarse, I was the only sober person in the room. "Seriously guys, you don't want him to sing. Animals cover their ears when he starts up." But my protests fell on deaf ears. The German was actually happy, and a bit intoxicated. He jumped up ready for the task. The Goal Keeper stood up and announced that he would help the German.

One hour later I began to worry that the Goal Keeper had stolen my husband. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. In walked my husband wearing a soccer jersey, a blue Santa hat (about 2 sizes too small) and he a garland with lights draped around his neck. Sadly, the pictures did not come out. He looked utterly ridiculous, but also very happy.

He then proceed to sing a song that he had just written in his deep, but off-key, voice. The team thought is was fantastic. There were cheers and whistles. Although I fell in love with him a bit more that night, I made him promise never to sing in public again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

One Man's Christmas Tree

I thought for sure that I was not going to have to work this week. Seriously, who wants English lessons the week before Christmas? Surely people will spend the whole week standing in line at the post office. It turns out that almost all of my customers wanted lessons. Although I had Monday and Tuesday off, I have 10 hours of lessons today, 4 tomorrow and 5 on Friday (Friday?!)

In order to make my lessons more festive I have injected some Christmas fun into the mix. I do a little worksheet with some Christmas vocabulary. We do a listening activity involving the song "Santa Baby" and writing letters to Santa Claus. We also fill out a chart about the differences between German and American Christmas traditions. This has caused a bit of a problem.

Last week we talked about the differences in Christmas trees. Whereas, Americans put up there trees as early as Dec. 1 and cover them with colored lights and balls, Germans put up their trees on Dec. 24 and use red balls, white lights, candles and maybe straw stars as decorations. Americans usually take their trees down on Jan. 1 but Germans wait until Jan. 6. Last week, I spoke quite affectionately about some of the decorations that my mom used on our tree when I was a child. One student screwed up her face and sat back in her chair with a look of disgust.

"Well that is just tacky!"

I usually don't offend easily. However, at that moment I felt like all of my childhood traditions had just been spit on. Instead of being a good teacher and counting to 5 and letting it go, I arched my eyebrow and starred out her.

"Seriously? Red balls and white lights? That is totally boring."

It was her turn to be offended. I should not have said it, but really, although you might find some one's Christmas traditions a bit loco, doesn't mean that they are not very special to that person. So in the spirit of acceptance at Christmas time, I will put on the red ball and white lights that the German so loves. However, some color may find its way on the tree in the back.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Same Procedure as Every Year

I consider myself a fairly intelligent woman. I am capable and learn fast. However, I cannot for the life of me send a Christmas card out on time. You know that saying, the road to hell was paved with good intentions? Well, this time of year, I think it should be, the road to the post office was was paved with inept Christmas card senders. By the looks of the post office this morning, I am apparently not the only person who never learns.

One week ago I woke up and realized that Christmas was two weeks away. I did a mental note of the gifts I had bought and the cards I had written. Hmm, that would be zero. In the past week, I have finished my shopping for the German, my parents and parents-squared, my sister and her children. I have even gotten something for my mother-in-law. Unfortunately, buying is but the first step for the ex-pat shopper.

This morning I stood in line to send out my 30 Christmas cards. People are grumpy when standing in line at the post office. And the guy behind me smelled a little bit. The postal employee was actually quite nice, but smirked and said, "You know if you send them the first week in December, you can beat the rush!" Gee, thanks for the tip.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Claire's Christmas List

The Christmas holidays are just around the corner. I know this because German radio stations have played Wham’s “Last Christmas” so many times, that if I hear it one more time, I think my ears will start to bleed.

I have not done any of my Christmas shopping, so it is time to get serious! Time to pull out the German’s credit card and surf the Internet.

I was talking with Mom on the phone last night and she asked me what I want. I was not sure, so I decided to make a Christmas wish list. This list is to help my parental units and the German, as I am pretty sure that he has not gotten me anything yet and I do not want to chance opening a vacuum cleaner on Dec. 25. (I must give the German a little credit, he already knows that if you can plug it in or use it in the kitchen, then it is not an appropriate Christmas present.)

For those who are interested, I think that the list is a little more insight into me.

Claire’s Christmas Wish List (Click on the links. They take your right to a picture of the item.)

Jem T-Shirt (pink, Jr. XL) (It is in stock! Run now!)

80stees.com

Martini and Rossi Poster for my dining room

art.com

The First Season of Charmed (It’s a guilty pleasure. You know I have never seen the first episode. I cannot play DVD’s from the U.S. here in Germany! Any order would have to be from amazon.de. )

amazon.de

Perfume: Pure Poison by Dior (Those who know me will be shocked to read this. I have used only one perfume since I was 16: Beautiful by Estee Lauder. However, I am ready for a change and a friend of mine wears this and it is divine.)

Perfume Emporium.com

The New John Grisham Novel (also a guilty pleasure)

Amazon.com

Amy Sedaris’s Book: “Hospitality Under the Influence” (Sounds like my kind of hospitality!)

Amazon.com

Banana Republic Fitted Blouse (Ice Blue, L) (Because a gal can never have too many fitted blouses. There is actually a great skirt at this site, but I don’t buy pants or skirts on the Internet. Too risky.)

Banana Republic

Hoop Necklace (Because a gal can never have enough jewelry.)

Banana Republic

And, finally, and most important, I wish there were more people in the world like this.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reindeer Games

I saw this on Mausi's site (she is cupid, by the way). I tried it out. I am not sure if it is correct, but it did make me giggle.

You Are Dancer

Carefree and fun, you always find reasons to do a happy dance.

Why You're Naughty: That dark stint you had as Santa's private dancer.

Why You're Nice: You're friendly. Very friendly.

A Surprising Confession

I just posted some pictures of the outside of the house over at my Euro-American Home. That blog has been even more neglected than this one. But things are kicking into high gear with the house this week, so I finally decided to post some pictures. Also, I realized why I was neglecting the house so much.

Truth be told, I do not like the house. I remember very distinctly the day we signed the papers. As I sat in the lawyer's office, this overwhelming feeling of dread came over me. All I could think was, "Let me out!" I wanted to jump out of my chair and run away. There were two reasons for this. First, I wanted to build and not buy. I thought the house was a bit ugly and it was really hard to picture myself living there.

Second, the house represented my permanent presence here in Germany. I have realized over the past few months that deep down I really thought we would move to the States. However, once that 30 year mortgage was signed, I knew I was not going anywhere. And that was scary.

My in-laws (actually just about anyone) have strong opinions about what to do with the house. And as I have so often demonstrated here, Germans are not afraid to give you their unsolicited opinion. Everything from the flooring to the color of the walls has been a big debate in the family. Frankly I think the only opinions that count are the people who have to pay the mortgage.

The best example of this was a window. Yes, a window. Please see Exhibit A below.


The brown, lead glass window separates the dining room from my office. In my opinion the window had to go. As I will be teaching in my office, I did not want a window into my dining room. However, and more importantly, I think it is ugly. Brown, lead glass my have been very "in" in 1960s Germany, but I am a American woman living in 2006.

Well meaning German: "It is such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship!"

Claire thinking: "But it is still ugly."

Well meaning German: "Just think of how expensive and hard to get something like that is!"

Claire thinking: "So it is expensive, hard to get ugly."

The more people told me to keep it, the more stubborn I got. This window actually caused a huge fight between the German and I. I thought they were dragging their feet about taking it out because they wanted me to keep it. Turns out that we weren't really fighting about the window. We were fighting about how unhappy I was with the entire situation, and that I had no idea how to express my unhappiness.

Of coarse I won. The window no longer exists. We are going to sell it on E-bay. And slowly, over the past few weeks, I have made peace with the house. The kitchen was delivered and the walls in the dining room have been painted. This weekend we will finish the dining room and my office. Last week, I went over on Wednesday afternoon. I bought a deli chicken and some cake. The German and I sat down in the kitchen and had dinner. Just the two of us. In our house. And for the first time it felt like my home.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's my Blog-Anniversary

Well, actually, yesterday was my one year blog-anniversary. However, the German and I decided to drink wine and watch TV together, so this post is a little late. Oh well.

I began blogging a year ago, for several reasons. The most important is that the Internet has turned into the primary way that I keep in touch with my family. If I don't post for more than a week I always get emails from mom and Grandpa wondering what's up. My family knows more about me now than they ever wanted to know.

However, after reading about other blogs, I thought that this might be my one way to get my creative juices flowing. It has and I have actually started a book. Well, drafted an outline for a book and written the first chapter. Unfortunately the creative part of the blog has taken the back seat over the past few months. Just no time.

Now it is time to take stock. It has been a very busy year. It started in December / January with my wild two week trip with the German through America. In February I discovered that you can buy almost anything in the Internet, except a t-shirt that I covet.

In March, I started my own business and discovered the expat blogger community, which has been very nice to me. In April I participated in the Lost Blogs Project and thought about building a house. In May, I had the perfect day, followed by the longest day. I also took a trip to Poland . In June I worked too much, but the World Cup soccer tournament helped assimilate me into Germany

In July I went to Hamburg to become a better teacher . In August my parents came to visit and I bought a house. In September I watched my crazy friend get married and I started working too much (a trend that has not yet ended). In October I quit my job at the university. In November I took a few mental health days and cooked one kick ass Thanksgiving dinner.

Wow, I get tired just thinking of all these things. A look at My-EuroAmerican Life by the numbers:

13,820 Total Page Visits
43 Visits Per Day (I peaked in April/May and it has been downhill since)
162 Posts
1 Additional Blog (dude I have new pictures of the house and will finally update that page on Sunday!)
Wrinkles discovered: 1

Cast of Characters at My EuroAmerican Life:

The German: my wonderful husband
Oma: the German's Grandmother
Dad-squared: my step-father
The New Yorker: my business partner
My Crazy Married Friend: Carrie, college buddy
My Crazy Single Friend: Aoife, Irish buddy
Chard: Peace Corps volunteer and supportive friend
Media Man and Lawyer Guy: people I share office space with

If you are new to the blog, welcome. If you are a regular reader, then you must be my grandfather. Thanks for the love and support everyone. I appreciate it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Small Victories

Sometimes, it is life's small victories that will make your day.

This morning I went into the office and found a fax printed out. I noticed however that only three of the seven pages had printed. Upon examination, I realized that the fax toner / cartridge was empty. This made me very nervous. Our fax machine is not very fancy. In fact, it uses one of those "carbon-paper-on-a-roll-cartridges" (I am sure there is a technical word. I have no idea what it is). I am not good with these type of things and the German has had to change the roll in the past. However, the fax was part of an important translation and I could not wait for the German to get home. I dragged out the manual and took a deep breath. Dude, I changed the toner in 5 minutes and did not even rip the carbon paper! I was bouncy for hours.

My biggest victory was actually on Sunday. As the family was sitting around the table enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, we were chatting about this and that. My mother-in-law mentioned that she saw a very interesting television report in which many common day myths were disproved. "Really, like what?" I asked.

"Well, it turns out that cold kidneys do not actually lead to an infection. Infections are caused by bacteria that has nothing to do with whether or not your kidneys are cold. It may not even be necessary to cover them up."

I smirked. Dude, I could have told you that. Wait . . . I already have. However, I am just an American and not as reliable a source as RTL. I figured it was best not to say anything and I just starred at my plate and basked in the glow of my victory, even if no one else knew about it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Turkey Talk Part III: So Good That We Did it Twice

I made ANOTHER Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. On Thursday, I had invited just a few friends; mostly people who speak very good English. However, because the in-laws have been doing so much work on the house, and my brother-in-law loves most things American, I volunteered (was told?) to make another Turkey.

Dinner was the same, minus the candied yams. I was a little disappointed, because half the fun is seeing the look of disgust on their face. The turkey was a big hit, as was the stuffing. However, I think that the vote on the pumpkin pie was mixed. Dinner was a little odd though. Everyone came, ate, and then left. Seriously, they were only here for 3 hours tops.

It think that all of this cooking and cleaning exempts me from kitchen duty for at least a month. On the other hand, I have learned a few things over the past week about preparing a Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Turkey is not that difficult to prepare. Cook it at about 350 degrees. My 4.4 Kilo bird (9 pounds) took about 3 1/2 hours. Placing whole celery and onions in the bottom of the pan adds flavor and makes it easier to get it out at the end.

2. Fresh cranberry sauces is better than the canned stuff. Dissolve 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of orange juice. Add cranberries and a cinnamon stick. Cook until the cranberries begin to pop, for about 10 minutes. Place sauce in serving dish and cool. The sauce will gel as it cools. Be sure to take the cinnamon stick out after about 30 minutes, otherwise the taste is overwhelming.

3. Don't mash your yams. Slices or chunks are better.

4. Spice up bagged stuffing with celery, onion, chicken broth and fresh rosemary. No one will ever know that it was from a bag.

5. Pumpkin pie tastes much better cold than warm.

I am still so stuffed from the past week, that I don't want to think about the mounds of cakes, cookies, and chocolates coming at me in the next few weeks. You know what they say: 'Tis the season to be eating.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Turkey Talk Part II: The Aftermath

We had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday. I really enjoyed my day off. I spent most of the day cooking, cleaning, and making the apartment "pretty." It was actually pretty nice that dinner was at 7pm, as it gave me plenty of time to enjoy the day and not feel rushed. I even had time to watch a "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," in English!

I love setting a pretty table. It makes things seem so civilized. However, I have noticed something odd about German table settings. Germans always have napkins on the table, usually some very colorful paper napkins. In fact, there is a wide range of colors, patterns and sizes for paper napkins here in Germany. Strangely enough, nobody actually uses them. One time I used a paper napkin at my in-laws and the person across from me looked at me like I had just committed murder. I always put napkins on the table. I prefer cloth napkins. Yesterday, two of my German guests did not want to use the napkins and one got upset when food got on it. Dude, wipe your hands with the napkin. That is what it is there for.



The company was great and we all drank and ate entirely too much. But that is what Thanksgiving is about. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is also about the clean up. Thank goodness that I had today off as I spent most of the day washing wine glasses.



At the beginning of dinner, I made everyone go around the table and say what they are thankful for. This is what I said:

I am thankful for my husband, because he cleans the toilet and loves me even when I make him crazy. I am thankful for my business partner, who inspires me to be a better teacher and has made my career switch a lot of fun. I am thankful for my friends, who make Germany not such a bad place to live. And finally, I am thankful for my crazy family, whom I love dearly even though they are far away.

While I was washing up today, I added up the cost of Thanksgiving.

Package from the U.S. with canned goods: $90 ($60 in postage alone!)
Two bottles of Pinot Noir, one bottle of champagne, one bottle of schnapps: 30 Euro
9 pound French turkey: 20 Euros
Freshly pressed napkins: one burned hand
The screwed up face of a German starring at you in disgust after trying candied yams for the first time: priceless

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey Talk: Part I

I was amazed by the number of positive comments about my new glasses. Thanks!! Everyone has been really nice, although a few people at work think that I just changed my hair.

This is the first part, in my 3 part Thanksgiving day series. Although tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the holiday has actually begun here in C-burg. I have the next two days off, and tomorrow I am hosting a dinner party for 5 people. It is the one time of the year that I go all out and cook. I figure that doing it really well once a year saves me from a year full of disgraces and Maggie Mix.

On tomorrow's menu:

Cocktail Hour: stuffed mushrooms, cheese and crackers, apple orchard punch

Dinner: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, candied yams, green bean casserole, fresh salad (with a nice pinot noir to drink)

Dessert: pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee

Behold the before picture:

I am not a very creative cook, but there are few things I am good at. I am really good at pie crust. My secret is VERY cold water. Also, the amount of water is always different. You have to play with the dough a bit. If need be, use a little extra flour.


Is it strange that I like to walk around the house in my apron when I am cooking?


Many Germans have heard about Thanksgiving, but they are not sure what it is. I heard a radio announcer say that the U.S. and Canada will be celebrating tomorrow. That is not true. Canadians do have a Thanksgiving, but it is on the second Monday in October. U.S. Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday in November. And although Germans have "Erntedankfest," it is not quite the same as American Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It is all about the food. There are no gifts and no special activities. It is simply a time for the entire family to sit around the table and eat and talk. My family did not do this much, so I guess that is why I enjoyed it so much. The day after Thanksgiving also kicked off the Christmas season and some very nice shopping. Unfortunately I don't get that here. Aldi started sell chocolate Sanats in October.

My VA friend is married to a bail bondsman. They love Thanksgiving, too, but for very different reasons. Seems that people do stupid things when you put them in a warm room with family and alcohol. Go figure.

Thanksgiving is also when Americans celebrate one of their founding myths: the Pilgrims journey to the new world and surviving a difficult year. I say myth, because the Pilgrims did not celebrate in Thanksgiving in November and the most certainly did not eat pumpkin pie (but rather swan and seal). Thanksgiving also emerged as an important story in the 1890s, as the number of immigrants increased. There was a search for identity amongst the melting pot, and these stories were spread to make people feel "more American." Searching for identity . . . I can relate to that.

My mother sends my Turkey Care Package every year so that my dinner will be as authentic as possible. However, my turkey is French. We are calling him Henri this year.

Unfortunately there are a few things that I simply miss. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. I would put it on early in the morning, and eventually my father would come into the room. "What is this crap!?" He would grumble through the whole thing, but usually let me watch. In college I discovered football and Thanksgiving took on even new meaning.

I am building my own new Euro-American Thanksgiving memories here in C-burg. Although the German does not like the candied yams, he is all about some turkey. Today I was also very touched by his thoughtfulness. After teaching all day, I was dreading going home to my dirty apartment. Cleaning the toilet and baking pie is not my idea of a good time when I am so tired. However, when I stepped through the apartment door, I saw the vacuum in the hallway. I smelled the disinfectant from the door. He cleaned! Even the toilet! Yet one more thing to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A New Outlook

Today I gained a whole new outlook on life. I got my new glasses. What do you think?

Old:



New:
This is a very different look for me. For the past few years I have always worn framless or very light colored glasses. My philosophy has been that glasses should melt into your face so that you cannot see them. It is part of my fear of drawing attention to myself (kind of weird that I bog, huh?). Anyway, my glasses have been always been boring.

I finally decided that if I am going to wear glasses, I am going to WEAR glasses. The lady at the shop tried to talk me into some purple stripped ones. I had just come from an English lesson and was wearing a plain fitted, blue blouse, denim skirt, black hose and black loafers. I thought I looked nice, classic (okay and maybe a bit boring), but it frightens me that this German thought, "Yes, purple stripped glasses would definitely complete that outfit." But that is the thing about Germans. They definitely WEAR glasses. Unfortunately that leads to very bad things, like polka-dots or triangles.

I decided that this pair was "classic" but not boring. However, now I feel REALLY self-conscious. So far though the feedback has been good. Although the guy in the office across the hall said that they make me like a teacher . . . Is that a compliment or an insult?


Monday, November 13, 2006

I have really great friends

This afternoon I came home from a meeting and was beginning to feel stressed about the English lessons that I had in the evening and the never ending cycle of laundry sitting in my bedroom. My landlord had put my mail on the stairs. On top was a small envelope from the U.S., from my crazy married friend.

I am always excited to get snail mail; any kind of mail actually. Inside was a small of book about finding serenity and inner peace and a small note, "Saw this at the bookstore and thought of you. Take care." I was moved to tears.

I opened my email and found an email from one of my favorite people, Ch-ard, the Peace Corps volunteer extrodinare. He is about to wrap up his two years of English teaching in Ukraine. I feel bad when I complain about my teaching load. He has to do the same thing, and usually without heat. He wrote just to say, "Hi."

I have really great friends. I have been venting and moaning a lot over the past few months ("No, Claire, really?"), and during that time I got a lot of supportive emails, SMS and comments. I thought that it was high time to say, "THANK YOU!" My love and support here in C-burg, in the States and around the blogosphere has helped keep a smile on my face.

I have some great blogger buddies. I looked at my webstats for the first time in months. My daily average had been about 45 visits a day. It had dropped to 25. Ouch. But those 25 of you keep coming back. I will try to pick up the pace! My fellow ex-pat bloggers are meeting in Bonn on Saturday and I am very jealous! I will be . . . wait for it . . . teaching. But I think I will teach a little bit about blogging and keep you all in my thoughts.

If you have a friend that you have not written in a while, send them a note. It will make their day. Trust me. Much love and groovy vibes from C-burg.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Learning to Relax

This week I went from 52 hours of lessons to 8. On Sunday afternoon, I visited some friends and had coffee and cake and woke up Monday morning excited about the possibility of "free time" this week. My body has had other ideas . . .

At noon on Monday I was sitting in my pajamas in front of my computer working on lessons for that afternoon / evening. I had had a mild headache all morning, and then it turned ugly. I took one of the little pills that my doctor gave me. After about 30 minutes I could barely keep my eyes open and I quickly realized that I would NOT be able to drive a car, so for the first time, I called and cancelled a lesson. I would have felt bad, but I wound up asleep for the rest of the afternoon.

I realized this week that I need to learn how to relax. I spent Monday and Tuesday on meds fending off a migraine and cursing my body. I could not enjoy my first day off in a month. It sucked.

In an effort to be more "relaxed," I watched meaningless TV. I went to the market and spent 15 minutes trying to decide which eye cream to buy (which just made me feel old and not at all relaxed). I cooked for the German and cleaned the apartment (which caused my back to ache and I hit my head on the ceiling when pulling out the vacuum cleaner). Relaxing should not be this much work.

So I decided to engage in a little bit of retail therapy. What's the point in working like a maniac, if I cannot spend some money? So, I bought some new glasses today. They are very cool and totally different and say "Prada" on the side (which is neither here nor there, but worth mentioning because the Germans eyes almost popped out of his head when I told him). The German and I bought plane tickets to the U.S. for spring break next year. On Saturday we are going to buy a dining room table. Let me tell you, I am feeling better already.

PS: Dix, it is Richard Quest who yells. I cannot take that man before my morning coffee.

PSS: Thanks for all the supportive comments. It means a lot to me. Over the past two days I have visited some of my blogger buddies. It is so great to catch-up. I hope to "see" more of you soon!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Sticky Situation

This morning I got up at 5:30am to watch the election returns. Mercifully I got to look at Cooper Anderson (he's so pretty) instead of the over-caffeinated British guy who always seems to be yelling at me. It was not a repeat of the election of 1922, but it was satisfying none the less.

Now, however, I realize just the sticky situation that everyone is in. First, let's take the "winners." The Dems "won" yesterday because they focused on America's growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, the U.S. will not be leaving Iraq any time soon. To pull up and move out would result in all out civil war. Disengaging is going to take a little finesse, something this administration has not shown much of. Furthermore, foreign policy is the domain of the executive and the legislative can really only use its oversight powers. Although the impulse is there to haul people before committees and point fingers and say, "I told you so," the Dems really need to fight that urge. It would be unproductive and is not the solution to the problem before us.

The Dems have a domestic agenda, too, including health care, education and raising the minimum wage. However, if the Senate remains Republican or 50 /50, much of what the Dems want to do will get stuck before it even gets off the ground. Thus, the Dems face a potentially major problem in 2008: What have they done for 2 years?

The Executive isn't exactly doin' a little dance or gettin' down tonight, either. I just watched Bush's comments and press conference. Boy, oh, boy! I have never seen him look that uncomfortable or speak that quickly. Frankly, he looked . . . pissed. He mentioned wanting to reach across the aisle and work with Dems on the important "issues," like education. That would be great if he (a) had not said the exact same thing 2 years ago and (b) cut federal funding for college loans while simultaneously increasing interest rates on student loans.

In another not so shocking moment, W announced the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Seems that Don only wants to play if he can set the rules and do what he wants. Now that he will not have free reign, he is taking his toys and going home. Well, that is if the oversight committees don't get him.

So both parties are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Maybe, just maybe, they might actually play nice in order to get something done. Political parties in Germany would tell them to play nice. After all, there CDU and SPD have had to live with the same situation for a year now. Sadly, making your enemy your friend is not always that easy, but here's hoping.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Go Vote! Do it Now!

I survived my 52 hour week! Yippee! I finally have a little blogging time over the next few days and cannot wait to finally post and see what my cyber friends have been up to.

I was provoked to post because it is a political scientist's favorite holiday: Election Day. For those of those in Europe who do not have the privilege of watching Fox News (which, honestly, really just makes me want to hurl), we are stuck with CNN to see what happens on the other side of the pond. I wish they would switch to the Atlanta office because the London bureau is well . . . not gettin' the job done.

This morning I was treated to the "historical evidence that may be hard to deny." What on earth does this mean? I think my overly caffeinated reporter was talking about how the party in power (i.e. in the White House) tends to lose seats in mid-term elections. This is true. Unfortunately, he kept going on and on about it, even bringing up the fun tid-bit that the Republicans lost 77 seats in 1922 during Warren G. Harding's mid-term election. Although fascinating, I am not sure that this fact will actually influence anyone's decision today. Except mine . . . to get my BBC back.

Anyway, I am following all the election news via the internet. I am a political junkie. I cannot help myself. There are not only important legislative races, but also a host of ballot initiatives, including one in South Dakota to overturn the most restrictive abortion bill ever passed.

I was listening to some very scary Republican radio ads on the internet about how the Democrats want to legalize many illegal immigrants in the U.S. It dawned on me that there are thousands of people who live in the U.S. and pay taxes (yes, they pay taxes, it is called sales tax and can often be higher than an income tax!) but are not allowed to vote. I live 3000 miles away and I get reminders to send in my absentee ballot.

When I was in the shower this morning, I started thinking about what is a "polity." A polity is the political organization of a group. It defines who are the citizens, the participants. Who is in and who is out. Often there are many people who live in a polity but are not legal recognized. They have no voice in the laws that confine their movements or the taxes they pay. On the one hand, there have to be such restrictions. But how do we decide what is right and who belongs? I belong to this polity - Cburg - and I am not allowed to participate in the decision making around me.

While this realization bothered me for awhile, I also began to think, "What is political action?" Do I have to vote to be political? Are there other things I can do? Absolutely! Only through actions like writing to a newspaper, speaking to members of the community, demonstrating, and dare I say it, blogging, can I make my voice heard. Although I would like to vote here in Germany, I do not want to give up my membership in my other polity - the U.S. Therefore, I will have to practice other forms of political action, just like so many immigrants that live in the U.S. I am not sure which form is the most effective, though. There may be some trial and error involved.

I know, you maybe a little confused by this rambling, but elections make me giddy. (Also the idea of polity and indirect political action was going to be my second book before I decided to drop out of academia, but as you can tell, I still think about it a lot.)

I am now going to go have a glass of wine and hope that the election of 1922 repeats itself.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Going Away for a While

So, I mentioned that if I don't blog for two weeks that you should worry . . . well, I am not going to blog for the next two weeks. Don't worry though! I hope to come out of the other end alive. This week I have 52 hours of English lessons. Yes, you read that right. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

My muscles started to spasm on Friday. I am assuming stress . . . anyway, it makes driving difficult when you can not turn your head all the way to check your blind spot.

I keep thinking that things will get better, you know lighten up, but they are not. If anything, they seem to get worse. Worse in a good way, I suppose. At least all of this means that my business is going well and I am making a little money. However, the downside is the bad back, never seeing the German, and not being able to blog! I haven't even read my favorite sites in 2 weeks!

I also have not helped at the new house at all. Trust me, there are rumblings by the in laws. However, sanding floors at 9pm after working all day just isn't happening. I can tell you that the windows were delivered and installed. I cannot tell you what they look like, as I have not actually seen them.

So, I am taking a little break but hope to be back in a few weeks. Then I will have all kinds of news about the Euro-American Thanksgiving I am having and a new door for the house, which I have seen.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Civic Duty

No worries. Still alive here in C-burg. I think that if I go two weeks without posting, then you should start to worry. I have been pretty busy the past two weeks. The New Yorker is taking a small holiday in New York to visit her family, which means that I am pulling double duty in the office and lessons.

However, I did find time to do my civic duty last week. I voted . . . by mail. I have to give "mad props" (I hear that is what the kids say today; just trying to keep up with the lingo!) to the clerk's office in my district. The send me my request for a ballot for every election! They even sent me a reminder this time. Seriously, these guys are on the ball.

I cannot tell you how I voted because it is a secret. But I will tell you that the ballot did not include any hanging chads. If you decided to vote straight ticket, there were little pictures next to the party names to help you remember which party you like. For example, there were pictures of JFK and FDR next to the Dems and pictures of Lincoln and Regean next to the Republicans. I have to say . . . these pictures were scary! Lincoln's looked like a mug shot and FDR looked like he had had one too many at happy hour.

I took my ballot up to the post. It was in a large brown envelope. It cost 3 Euro to send! I started to chuckle. "Boy, voting sure has gotten expensive!"

PS I have actually not been over to My Euro-American Home in almost a week, but the German tells me that a lot of progress is being mad. I will stop by today for new pictures. Check them out tomorrow!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Somewhere, hell is freezing over

Today I am writing words that I thought would never come out of my mouth.

The Detroit Tigers are going to the World Series.

When my Mo' Town Uncle was here in August, he told me that he was going to take the weekend of the World Series off. You know, just in case.

I laughed at him. I told him, "You know, Al Kaline left the building a long time ago my friend."

"Yes, but you never know," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

My Mo' Town Uncle has been a Tigers fan since he was a kid. When I visit my Michigan relatives, he always takes me by the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and tells me stories about the games he saw there. Mo' Town taught me what it was like to be a true sports fan. To support your team through thick and thin. And trust me, the Tigers have been through many a thin year. He also taught me other important things like the offsides rule in football and that the Yankees are evil.

He took me to Comerica Park a few years ago. Then, the stadium was half empty and the Tigers put the faith of even the most die hard fans to the test. Dude, they lost 119 games just three years ago. Man, was a difference a season can make.

It turns out that my Mo' Town Uncle was right. You never know. And he is the one laughing now.

Go Tigers! I will be cheering all the way from C-burg.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My Favorite Month

I think that I finally figured out why I have had the blues lately. Unfortunately, it is because we have entered my favorite month, October. Yes, October is my favorite month of the year and it is making me sad. I realized this because all of the things I love about October are not here in Germany . . . but rather in the U.S.

Let me explain.

October is a wonderful time of the year. The air turns a bit crisp. You get to go out in a big sweatshirt and turtleneck, but it is not yet cold enough for a jacket. I love the feeling of the cool air on my cheeks. I can also dig out my favorite outfit: running shoes, jeans, sweatshirt and turtleneck. Sure, I love to get dressed up and put on my pretty shoes, but in October you cannot get me out of my favorite outfit. It just makes me feel so . . . Comfortable and snug.

The landscape changes and all of Fall's beautiful colors emerge. I went to undergrad in Radford, Virgina. The trees there turn this beautiful gold color. Sometimes I wanted to try and turn them into the bank for cash.

October is when school got into full swing, but not yet the pressure of final exams. I am a nerd. I loved school. New books. Sharp pencils. An empty notebook. It all signals possibility and things to be done.

October also means football. So my undergrad did not have a football team, but my grad school did. I loved football Saturday!! There is nothing in the world like my college town on football Saturday. I would sleep in and then be woken by the band playing not far away. I would get up and have breakfast and watch cartoons. Then I would wander over to campus and watch silly people in their silly hats who were having a glorious time. I'll admit it. I even painted my face a few times. After a hot dog and maybe a beer at a tailgate, it was time to watch the band march into the stadium. Then we would watch our boys battle it out for the next three hours. Most of the time they even won. Inevitably I would go to someone's apartment for pizza, beers, more football and a roaring "I would have called it different" debate.

The best part of October is always the last day. Halloween. Halloween is fabulous. It is completely for kids, and that is what makes it great. 5 years ago I moved into my very first apartment by myself. I rented the bottom floor of a house in a very old neighborhood. I sat on my front porch and chatted with the kids and passed out candy and felt like part of the community. Then I watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (LOVE IT!) That evening I gave a most excellent Halloween party, which some of my friends still talk about. (Dude, the cops were called! Okay, so it was because of the people across the street, but hey, it is all part of the story.).

After Halloween comes my second favorite month and holiday: November and Thanksgiving.

As I think of all the things I love about October, I realize that I cannot have them here. I usually don't wear my favorite outfit because I am afraid that I will look like a foreigner. There are no Halloween parties and certainly no bands playing. I am no longer in college and instead of possibilities I only see obligations. I cannot even watch a game on satellite TV. The worst part is knowing that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I am very far from my family.

This makes me homesick. I don't really get homesick anymore. Got too much stuff to do. Places to go. People to teach. But when I slow down in October, I begin to get a little sad. Although many of the things that I love are associated with the U.S., they are also associated with being young and in college, which is definitely a part of my life that is over now. Realizing that has been very difficult.

So, I am trying to make a few new memories. Create my own traditions. I already have my Thanksgiving Dinner plans in progress and the New Yorker and I are going to give a heck of an American Style Christmas Party this year. And maybe I will even pull on my sneakers a few times.

Friday, October 06, 2006

End of an Era

Yesterday marked the end of an era for me. Well, not so much an era, which is a really long period of time, but a significant period of time in this Euro-American life. And by significant period of time, I am referring to Claire putting up with frustrating people who make her completely insane. Yesterday, I quit my job at the university.

I have had enough ranting. I can do no more. I knew this was coming, and after today, I don't feel bad at all.

I got up at 6:30am on my DAY OFF (I want to emphasize this, because it is my last day off, i.e. no English classes, until Christmas; until then I will work Monday through Saturday) to go to the University yesterday. I had to turn in the left over grades from my seminar last semester. It took awhile, but I finally finished them.

Then I added up all the work from last semester:
Number of class room hours taught: 18
Hours spent in traffic commuting: 10
Office hours held: 10
Hours spent preparing lessons: 48 (usually 4 hours per lesson)
Hours spent grading: 8
Estimated total hours worked: 94
Estimated pay per hour: 6.34 Euro per hour

I was teaching teachers and potential political leaders for less than minimum wage. One of the topics I often covered in my class was Rational Choice Theory. After doing a cost-benefits analysis of my life, I decided that the University had to go. "Sebastian" left a comment on my last University post that introducing tuition fees violates the International Charter of Human Rights. He forgot to mention that my right to a living wage actually comes first in the Charter. But this is only a small detail.

This decision has made me very sad. Yesterday I went to the student union / cafe to have coffee and read the paper. Not far from me was a table full of American exchange students (speaking English with a Mid-western accent is a dead give-a-way). I was fascinated and a little envious of their new beginning and I thought back to my first time abroad. But as I watched the students, I realized that I was only clinging to the university because of all the memories it held. However, my life is now so far from that point, and it is perhaps time to move on.

Unfortunately, when you leave academia, there is no turning back. It is almost impossible to get another job and to catch-up on the literature. This career change is so difficult because I cannot help but wonder if my PhD was a waste of time. Am I throwing 10 years of education down the toilet? I hope not. I prefer to think of it as "moving over to another teaching challenge."

Early this morning I received an email from a former student who is unhappy with the grade I gave him last semester. I will now have to have a few last office hours (which are not paid) to explain myself. Suddenly all those doubts I had disappeared.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just your typical Tuesday night

A conversation in our house last night:

(Claire is standing at the window upstairs. The clouds part and a beautiful 3/4 moon appears.)

Claire: Hey, sweetie, come over here and take a look at the moon with me.

(German walks over and put his arms around Claire.)

German: Wow, that is really beautiful. You know there is a rover up there.

Claire: Do you think that the U.S. really went to the moon?

German: If they didn't ,then I have a lot of respect for Americans on being able to fool everyone for so long.

Claire: Doesn't it blow your mind to think that we are looking back in time?

German: What do you mean?

Claire: Well, the stars are so far away that the light they sent millions of years ago is just now reaching us. That star (Claire points to random part of the sky) could actually be gone now.

German: Cool, huh? I saw a TV special yesterday that said that the universe began as a tiny grain of sand and that it exploded billions of years ago.

Claire: But if the universe started as sand, what was the sand in? I mean what surrounded it before that? There has to be more than the universe.

German: There may be up to 9 different dimensions. Perhaps the universe that we know is within one of those dimensions.

. . .
(long pause)
. . .

Claire: Honey, do these pants make me look fat?

German: Not in this dimension, baby.

Claire: Gee, you give the sweetest compliments.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Day of Unity

Today is a rather odd holiday in Germany: German Unity Day. Every Oct. 3, Germany celebrates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990. The Berlin Wall actually came down on November 9, 1989. However, November 9 is also anniversary of the Kristallnacht of 1938 (the first large scale Nazi pogrom against Jews in Germany). Thus, you can understand why they choose a different date.

I call the holiday odd, because most Germans do not know what to DO on German Unity Day. There are no big barbecues, no fireworks, and few German flags. It seems that "German-ness" and German nationalism makes Germans very uncomfortable. I saw on a television show the other night that only 11% of Germans said that they would hang their flag on Unity Day. (In case you are wondering, we are not hanging a flag. We do not even have one.)

Patriotism and nationalism are rather distressing words here. If you ask most Germans what it means to be German, you would not get an answer. For the longest time it was "bad" to be German. These taboos from the 1950s and 1960s seem to remain lingering in the German sub-conscious.

Only the World Cup this past summer seemed to change that. For the first time, in a long time, it was okay to be German. Germans are not Nazis. They are friendly, warm hosts who know a thing a two about beer, soccer, and building machines.

Nationalism is a double edge sword. On the one hand, I think that a certain amount of self-confidence is necessary, both in life, business and politics. Germans need to stop thinking that every thing is terrible here. They need to take a look around and be proud of what they have. (Seriously, other than terrible customer service, Germans have it pretty good.)

Unfortunately, nationalism creates a sense of "us," which can be abused by politicians. By creating an "us," you also imply a "them" that is diametrically opposed to who you are. "We" are better than "they" are. Through this "us" verses "them" mentality politicians have wagged wars and committed atrocities (Germans and, yes, Americans, too). So maybe, nationalism is not so good?

Perhaps, self-confidence and pride (both in the correct dose) are better words. Germans can be proud of the clean and functioning society that they have created. This country was brought to its knees in 1949. But it carried on (with some help from some friends). Against tough odds, it brought two countries back together into one. There are still large differences between East and West (such as high unemployment in the East). Today, Germany is the world's largest exporter of large machines. Even though it has higher unemployment than the U.S., it has a lower crime rate and lower poverty rate. See, not so bad?

What was I talking about? Oh, yes, German Unity Day. So, there is not much that we will do on German Unity Day. The German and my father-in-law are already working in the new house and I have papers to grade. Perhaps it is not the same as the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, but it is a day off from work (yeah!), and a moment to reflect on the thought, that hey, Germany Doesn't Suck. And they are showing Pretty Woman on TV tonight, so it cannot be all bad.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Birth of a Blog

I have given birth to a new blog!

Because the new house is going to be taking up a lot of my time, I have decided to give the house its own blog. I have linked it in the sidebar under "VIP." You can check it out at:

http://euroamericanhome.blogspot.com/

Here I will post pictures, updates, anecdotes, and links about this new phase of my life: home ownership. For example, yesterday the German and I found a hidden treasure under the horrid carpet in the dinning room. Happy Reading!

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Mental Health Day

Thanks so much for the people who sent such good vibes via the comments. I have noticed that I am not the only one feeling a little blue these days. I hope that my fellow bloggers and I stick it out. After all, we must be in good form for our meet up in November!

I decided to take my crazy married friend's (aka Carrie) advice and take a mental health day today. Okay, so I have to make a few phone calls and run to the post office, but I swear after that. I was thinking of vacuuming and making lunch for the German. It is a little weird. I am sitting here obsessing about all the things I should be doing. Too bad there are no day spas around here. I would love to go get a pedicure.

But you know what they say, when it rains, it f_ _ _ing pours. . .

Last night, C-burg opened its version of Oktoberfest - City Fest. (No kidding, that's what they call it). People come from kilometers around to stand around a listen to bad music (if I have to listen to "Country Roads Take Me Home" one more time, my ears may start bleeding) and drink beer. Good times. I went last night after teaching. I just had one beer, as I had Smarty with me and so had to drive home. The German was there, the New Yorker, Lawyer Guy, a few of my students . . . it was good. But after an hour the German and I wanted to go home. So we walked to the parking lot to my car (he had biked in).

I got into Smarty and the German biked away. I turned the key. . . Nothing.

"GERMAN!!"

The German raced back. "What?!"

I looked at him solemnly. "I think Smarty has died."

He got in and tried his best, but he could not bring Smarty back. Thank God, he was there. If I had been alone, I swear that I would have sat in the parking lot and just started crying. Instead, I just looked at him, smirked and said dryly, "So, I guess I know what we are doing when you get home from work tomorrow." Then we walked the few kilometers home.

Perhaps that is the key to getting through a funk, bad phase, depression . . . a support team. Sometimes it is your partner, sometimes co-workers, family or even fellow bloggers. It is good to know that you are not alone. That when you fall or feel low there are people around you to help you get up.

So now I am off to buy a battery for Smarty and maybe even a trashy tabloid magazine. Hey, its my mental health day and I'll do what I want!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Drowning

WARNING: Pity Party follows!

I have to admit that it was Grandpa's comment that brought me out of my hole. I have had several posts on my mind, but have not had the energy to write. To be honest, I feel like I am drowning.

Some people call it a bad mood, others depression, or maybe it is just a bit of a funk. But I tell ya' for the last week I have been getting up on the wrong side of the bed every day. Over the weekend I thought it was just too much work. But this time I have been a little . . . irrational.

I thought that a little sports would lighten my mood and release all those happy hormones. Unfortunately with my wacky hours, I have not been able to go to the gym that I pay 70 Euros for every month. I decided to try the local swimming pool. It opens early, so I can go before work and swimming a few laps always makes me feel better.

Monday morning I got up at 7am and got to the pool at 7:30am. As I was about to pay, the man behind the counter warned me that the school kids were coming. "Well, what areas are they in? I will try to stay away from them." His eyes widened, "They are every where!"

He must of noticed my distress and he said, "Come when we open at 6:30am. That is when most of the business people show up." Great. My Monday went down hill from there with boring details that I will not share. Fast forward to Tuesday, 6am. I got my but out of bed and got to the pool at 6:30am sharp. You can imagine my disbelief as I stood in front of a very closed pool. I looked to the side: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 6:30am; Tuesday, Thursday 8:00am. I sulked back to my car. At that point I was a little over whelmed and I promptly burst into tears.

Today the German and I signed the last papers for the house and got the keys. This is supposed to be a happy day, but as I sat in the lawyer's office all I could think is, "Get me the hell out of here!" I almost started crying there, too. I did start crying 5 hours later at the McDonald's when I could not answer my phone fast enough and missed the German's call (I have a contract phone and could not call him back). I told you - irrational.

So here I sit. And I feel like I am drowning in a sea of paper work and responsibilities that I am not sure I ever really wanted. Yesterday I thought, "What would happen if I just did not get out of bed tomorrow." I got out of bed of course. I always do. But I am telling ya, these days it is hard. I am not sure if it is over work, the over whelming task that is our house, homesickness, or the lingering sadness of changing careers. Perhaps it is none of those things. Perhaps it is everything.

I have some very interesting posts stuck in my head, including one about the link between the number of slaughter houses in C-burg and its booming birthrate. I hope to get to them this weekend. I have 5 days off!! Whee!! Okay, so I will be ripping up carpets and grading papers, but at least I can sleep in. Well, unless I attempt the pool one more time.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stammtisch

I just got back from the Irish pub and thought a post was in order.

The New Yorker and I started an English Stammtisch here in C-burg. Basically about 15 people get together once a month and speak a little English and drink a little beer at the local Irish pub. It is a lot of fun, and maybe one day it will lead to a little business.

The great part is Karl made the drive in from Addrup. There may not be a whole lot of English speakers in C-burg, but I am certain that there are more than in A-town.

He mentioned that readers of Euro-American Life are waiting for a pic of me in a horrid bridesmaid gown. Well, you will have to wait for that. I don't actually have a picture of myself. It is funny how that happens when you spend all of your time behind the camera.


However, I wanted to post a picture of beautiful Kill Devil Hills, NC. This is the view from my bedroom. Seriously, you open the door from my bedroom out onto the balcony, and this is what you saw. Every night I left my door open and listened to the waves as I went to sleep. I highly recommend the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There is only one sad thing: some day a hurricane will sweep it all away.

PS As soon as my favorite married couple (the crazy lady and the bail man) send me a picture of the bridesmaid dress, you all will be the first to know.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Back in the BRD . . . you don't know how lucky you are

After leaving Washington DC on Monday, Sept. 11, I arrived in Germany yesterday. Many people asked me what it is like to fly on Sept. 11. Honestly, it was like any other day to me. The airport security was tight, but that is normal these days. What was disturbing was the huge sign outside of the airport that said: "THREAT LEVEL ORANGE." I am not sure what that means, but it scares the heck out of me.

The thing that bothers me most about flying is the mechanical part. Think about it - a large, heavy plane hanging in the air at 30,000 feet. Something about that is not normal. The flight back was a little turbulent. Tropical Storm Florence created a great jet stream which made the flight fast (only 6 1/2 hours from DC to Amsterdam) but also made sure that I did not sleep.

Today I discovered that the best way to fight jet lag is to work - a lot. I have been going since 8:00am. It is almost time for me to fall into bed.

Before I do, I have to comment on air conditioning.

I was so pleased about the air conditioning the first day that I was in the States. However, after that, I was cold all the time! I kept asking people to turn the air down. I was pleased as punch to find the weather in Germany sunny and warm. Unfortunately, I have spent most of the day in stuffy classrooms and missing the AC.

Just goes to show you, the AC is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Wedding

The wedding is over. It was a very beautiful ceremony and I had a lovely time. It was a very long and a bit of a stressful week, but I am very happy that I came. I will post more about the trip later in the week, but tonight I am going to unwind before the long trip back to C-burg.

The best part of the week was the bachelorette party which can be summed up easily:

Singing I'm a little tea pot on the radio

Large, drunken sailors making passes at us girls

Loosing a part of the party due to "illness" at the bar

Asking a little person for his underware

Good times.

PS Yes, there was naked time, but I did not participate in that.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I'm just here for the water

I made it! Why is it every time that I come back to the states, the first thing I notice is how big the cars are? Wait, probably because they are!

I landed in Dulles at 3:30pm and had a very smooth, fast time at immigration and customs. Mr. S picked me up from the airport and we made the 6 hour drive to Kill Devil Hills, NC. DC traffic was, well, DC traffic. Thankfully, it was not that bad.

On the way down we stopped in Richmond, VA at a BW Three, which is like TGIFriday: bar / restaurant food. We walked in and I immediately experienced culture shock. It was big and loud. There were 6 big screens with sports. Everyone was in t-shirts, jeans and baseball caps. As we sat down, I definitely felt overwhelmed.

The waitress came and I ordered a cheeseburger and water. She brought me a big glass of water with no bubbles! tons of ice! and a straw! The cheeseburger was thick and had a piece of pepper jack cheese. When the bill came, the burger was $4.50 and the water was free. Man, it is good to be home!

PS I tried on my matron-of-honor (thanks Christina, it does make me feel old!) dress. It is too big in the best, but I think we can pin it. It is actually a lovely blue color. Because the wedding is on the beach, we will all be in flip-flops.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Up and away

In about 7 hours I have to get up and go to airport. I am VERY tired. I got up this morning at 6:30a.m. I am pretty sure that I got everything done, but I am not sure. I will probably remember tomorrow when I am somewhere over Ireland.

Where am I going? I am headin' home. Well to the U.S. anyway. My good friend is getting married Saturday, and I am to be the maid-of-honor. I was surprised when my crazy (in many ways) friend asked be to be in her wedding. Having someone living on another continent in your wedding creates all kinds of logistical problems. Let's just say we all have our fingers crossed that my dress fits.

The best part is that the wedding is in Kill Devil Hills, NC. I am dying to be on the east coast again. I will probably run into the Atlantic like a complete fool. The worst part is that the German cannot go. Imagine - his school director won't give him a week off after being back to work for only a week.

Anyway, although I will have internet access this week, I probably won't be posting. But you can bet your bottom dollar I will have a lot to say about being a bridesmaid when I get back!

Until then, visit some of my "friends."

Jen has resurfaced and posting again.

Christina is back on this side of the pond and making everyone jealous with her beautiful pictures of her Canadian vacation.

James was the American in Duesseldorf, but is now the American in Amsterdam.

Rich became a dad! Many congrats, R and A!

Hexe is stuggling with her transition back to work.

Carol is trying to sell her boat. I wish I could buy it, but I can't even buy shoes now!

See you soon!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Professional Advice

Two posts in one day?? Yes, you can tell it is a Friday night in the S and S household.

Remember those migraines I have been having? Well, under threat of divorce (or worse having to renovate the new kitchen all by myself) I went to the doctor yesterday. I explained that I started experiencing cluster migraines in June. I had a bad attack in June, two mild ones in July, and one last week when my mother was here.

Kind, father like doctor: "So do you have a lot going on in your life at the moment?"

Claire stares stupefied. "Dude, how much time you got?"

I explained the various things that I have done over the past few months and after about 10 minutes I ran out of breath and energy.

Kind, father like doctor: "I really think that you need a vacation."

Claire stares stupefied. "Yeah, dude, tell me something I don't know."

He has given me some samples of a few triptans. Some last longer than others and he told me take one at the beginning of an attack. Hmm. We will see.

Have a nice weekend!

PS: The kitchen that drove me to the doctor:

The Rules

My last visitor from the U.S., "The World's Best Uncle," left yesterday. The German and I loved having visitors. It was so great to share our little part of the world, and I definitely saw a Cloppenburg in a different light as I was taking people around. In fact, the place almost smelled normal.

However, having visitors was a little stressful, so we developed a few rules for our next set of visitors. Well, not so much rules as tips and travel advisory.

1. It is probably best to come when the German and I are on vacation. Other wise you will be forced to watch me teach English or the German teach Excel. I am not sure which is worse.

2. Learning a few words of German can help. I translated almost an entire episode of my soap, Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten for my parents. It was then that I realized how very stupid German soaps are. ("Oh, that is Sandra. She has been kidnapped by her boyfriend's evil twin.")

3. It always rains here. There is never a good time of the year to come over. Just come over.

4. The German and I usually run out of ideas of things to do by the second day. It is good to bring a guide book. We are not that creative.

Anyway, I discovered a whole different set of rules this afternoon. I went to Oldenburg to have my hair done. As I walked through town I made the mistake of going into the "good" shoe store. I starred at a beautiful pair of Tod's heels (imagine the picture in black suede with blue trim; so yummy!). I salivated. I almost tried them on, but knew better. I turned and walked out to the store dejected. This was very hard form me. I like me some shoes.

New rule: don't go looking at shoes the same week you sign your mortgage papers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Bigger Day

I am about to leave for the lawyer's office. Today the German and I are going to sign the contract to buy a house. All of a sudden I feel very grown up. I have to admit, I think being a grown up is highly overrated. When we were at the bank last week getting the loan (and yes, my income still does not count, but they gave us a good interest rate none the less), I noticed how much paper is work is involved in "being a grown up." Seriously, we have binders for our taxes and income, binders for the various kinds of insurance that we have, binders about car loans and student loans, binders for lists to buy more binders. It was enough to make me want to curl up into bed and take a nap.

When we are young (i.e. 16), we race towards our destiny, dying to be a grown up. It will be so great to be free! However, the older I get, the less free I feel. Because with this adult "freedom," comes responsibility. Sure, I know a lot of people who shirk major responsibilities and live footlose and free. I often envy these people.

But as I look at my house and the future it holds, it is not a bleak as I feel. There is the possiblity to make some thing mine. To have a safe place to go to after a long day. To know that I will always have a home and no longer be a nomad. That is nice. It makes it even better to know that I will always return to my home and see the German . . . hmm, maybe responsibility is not all that bad.



Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bathroom Blues

I said I would be back Monday - just not which Monday. I noticed that my blog stats / hits have decreased over the past two months. I am sure that has something to do with my . . . ahem . . . irregular posting.

Any Mom and Dad-squared came and went. We had a wonderful visit! First we went down to the Rheinland and visited Oberwesel and St. Goar. The Rheinland is great for two things: visit old, romantic looking castles and wine. We indulged ourselves in both.

Mom and Dad-squared loved it here so much they are thinking of moving to Germany. Hmm. It would be great to have family here, but I think they should take some German classes and stay for more than a week, and then they might have a better idea.

Unfortunately, my mother had a few . . . issues . . . with the bathrooms.

Picture if you will a sleepy, middle-aged woman with a headcold. She has just gotten off the plane, and after 10 hours of traveling only wants a bathroom. After navigating to the correct place in the Frankfurt airport (not an easy feat for those that know the airport), she turns around to flush. Only - she doesn't know how to flush. After 5 minutes of standing, bending, looking, and pushing, she finally gets the toilet to empty.

On our way to the Rheinland, the toilet adventures did not stop. At the first rest stop, we entered a little cafe / convience store. We (my mom and I) walked downstairs. We were confronted with a machine and turnstyle that appeared to require money. 50 cents. Mom just starred at me.

I pointed to the slot in the machine and she popped in her coin. A ticket popped out. Mom starred at me again. "What do I do now?"

"You got me! This is my first time here, too! I think you take the ticket and go through the turnstyle."

"Do I have to give it to the guy on the other side?"

There was a man standing on the other side of the turnstyle who was observing my mother and I. He appeared to be getting upset by the backed up bathroom traffic behind us. "Go! Go!" He shouted. Mom went first and I behind. After I was finished I headed upstairs to the men folk. A few minutes later mom appeared.

"They let men inside the woman's restroom!! There was a man wiping down the counter!"

"Mom, he was just cleaning up. It wasn't like he saw you in your nickers."

A few hours later, nature sounded its call again. Both my mom and I asked the German to pull over at the next rest area. A few minutes later, the German pulled into a rest area that only had one small building. I knew that it would not be good, but I encouraged my mom to go anyway. The German looked at me curiously and asked in German:

"Don't you have to go?"

"Umm. . . no, I think can wait."

As soon as the words left my mouth, my mother came racing back. "There is no way I am using that! It smells like a 3 week old port-a-potty!"

I snickered. "I guess the man wiping down the counter was not so bad after all."

Friday, August 18, 2006

The big day

My parents have arrived safely in Frankfurt. Well, I am assuming. I have not seen anything bad on the news. In a few hours we will go to Bremen to pick them up. I am so excited! And strangely, terribly nervous. I hardly slept last night. All I could think of is, "Are they okay? Did they have enough to eat? How is my mom's head cold?" I feel like they are the kid and I am the parent.

We are driving down to the Rheinland tomorrow to see the Lorelei. I thought my parents should see something very German.

See you Monday!

(I hope with pictures! Blogger is still acting up. Anyone know why?)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

To buy or build

So, remember all the information that I collected about building a house? The German and I visited pieces of land. We went to trades shows and were completely overwhelmed by roof tiles. A German bank clerk told me that I don't count. Well all of that was for nothing.

A quick trip down memory lane . . . in April we decided to build a house and buy land from the city. The city told us that we could buy the land in July or August and start building in September. Don't worry; we will contact you when you can sign the contract. Great. So we waited . . .

In June the German (rightly so) started to get worried. In July he drove by the land, and there was a rapsfeld (canola flower field?). Hmm. Two weeks ago we went back to the city.

Overpaid city official: "Yes, seems that the people selling us the land were having some difficulties. It has all been sorted, though, and we are preparing the lots now."

Frustrated possible home owner: "So when can I build?"

Official: "Well . . . the contracts can be signed in November and you could start in December."

Angry possible home owner: "But the building company won't start then. They said not until March. By then the value added tax will have increased, and the house will be like 8000 Euro more expensive than we planned!"

Official: "Yes, I know it is frustrating. What can you do?"

Not build a house for one thing. So, the German and I started to explore other options last week. We went to a real-estate agent who showed us a few houses, one of which was pretty nice (and the price even nicer!). Today we signed something like a letter of intent to buy a house so that paper work can get started.

The house is HUGE! It has two floors and a complete basement. Also, the lot is really nice and because the trees are older, none of the neighbors can see into our house. (I was going to post pictures by Blogger is acting stupid and will not let me. Maybe I can post them later.)

There are some disadvantages though. The house is 40 years old. The bathrooms and kitchen must be completely torn out and renovated. Also, all the floors have to be re-carpeted and new windows installed.

Suddenly, I feel like a grown up. However, it is like I am being pushed kicking and screaming into adulthood. On Sunday, some of the German's family laughed when we told them about the house. "Well, Claire you have one year left until you are 30. You have a job and now maybe a house. All you need is to get pregnant and everything will be good to go" (wink, wink).

I have single friends of mine who complain about how frustrated they are by society's expectations that they get married. However, if you are married, you are faced with a complete different set of expectations. It is always something, isn't it?

But for now, I am about to become a homeowner. Does anyone know where I can get a copy of those Time Life Books about house renovations? “She who lays tiles” is soon to be my new name.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Beautiful

I have spoken about Oma before. She is the German's 75 year-old grandmother and most DEFINITELY the head of the family. She has been battling cancer and things did not look good in June. The chemo had taken a lot out of her.

However, after a month of rest and good eating, I am happy to say that Oma is in good form. She came to my birthday on Saturday and the German's nephew on Sunday. Frankly, I think she is beautiful.

From the Domestic Goddess Files II

First, let me say thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes. I complain a lot about my birthday, but in the end it is never as bad or as dramatic as I make it out to be. It is now even better now that I know that Haddock has the same birthday! (By the way, the Feastday of St. Clare is also August 11, but this has nothing to do with my name. I was named after my grandmother. However, it is an strange coincidence . . .)

Last week I got a lovely email from Grandpa (he who lives in the land o' cheese, i.e. Wisconsin), who wished me a happy birthday and speculated about why I am not posting more now that I am at home. One, perhaps nothing interesting is happening. Or two, perhaps I am very busy.

It is a combination of both really. There really is not much going on in C-burg. The heat finally let up and the rains came, so you know . . . your typical north German summer.

Also, business is going really well. You should check out our company website (warning, it is only in German). But I am also in the midst of preparing for the "Big Visit." Mom and Dad-squared land in Bremen on Friday. So I am trying desperately to get my house in shape.

I am taking a top-to-bottom approach. I started with my office - which frankly was a disaster. Because it is upstairs, we tend to just throw stuff up there when we have company. As result, stuff has piled up over the past year. I had papers from dissertation lying all over the floor. Last week, I cleaned it all up.

6 hours, a trip to Ikea, and 90 Euro later, I have a decent office. Behold the fruits of my labor.



Sure it does not look that impressive, but consider that a week ago all of those binders were on the floor! I believe there is a correlation between the number of binders you have and how smart you are. Wait . . . or is it how crazy you are? Now that I think about it, the number of binders only demonstrates that I cannot throw anything away!

If you look at the top picture, the shelf on the right contains binders only from my dissertation. Or as I like to call it, 6 years of my life that I will never get back.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Birthday Rituals

Yesterday was my birthday. I have to be honest. I am not really fond of my birthday. It is usually forgotten and / or something bad happens. (This year something bad did happen, I learned that our family dog, Sadie, the dumbest and most lovable basset hound on the planet, died.)As a result I tend not to celebrate. However, in Germany, you are often forced to celebrate whether you want to or not.

If you work in an office, you are expected to bring in treats for your co-workers, and maybe even bring in some Sekt (sparkling wine). It is also fully expected that the family will be invited over for coffee and cake.

Today, my in-laws are coming over. Although I did not want to celebrate, I find myself facing 6 guests. I spent the entire morning cleaning my apartment and making cake. I know it is probably not nice to whine, but if I had said, "Nope. Claire's not celebrating her birthday this year," the entire family would have been offended.

To make matters worse, I found my first wrinkle last week. I was blowing out my hair when I noticed a small line under my eye. I looked closely. I am confident that the line is not there because of lack of sleep. These days I get about 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Nope, it was definitely my first wrinkle. I called out for the German.

He came into the room and looked at my distressed face. After I pointed out my wrinkle, he examined my face carefully. "Well, I think you have one there, too," and pointed to my neck. Needless to say, he ran out of the bedroom pretty quickly.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Road Rules

The city of C-burg gave me a lovely welcome home present yesterday – my very first parking ticket. Although the city is nice enough to provide centrally located office space for my new business with cheap rent, there is no free parking around the building. When signing the lease for our office space in February, the New Yorker and I were concerned about this. However, I figured that it would not be a problem for me because I bike to work most of the time.

Yesterday, unfortunately, it rained for the first time in weeks, so I took Smarty to work. I shoved a Euro into the meter, and stuck the ticket in my window. An hour later, I was sitting in my office working away. I could not really be bothered to get up, and did not think 30 minutes would matter much. Well it did! The meter-maid posted the ticket 10 minutes after my time expired. I personally think she was scoping out my car.

The price for my illegal deed . . . 5 Euro. I just paid it on-line. The German laughed and laughed. However, I would like the entire world to know that as far as tickets go, this family currently stands at 2 to 1. The German got a speeding ticket in B-town while going to work, and a warning / speeding ticket in the U.S.

Picture if you will the dark South Carolina night (dude, seriously, it was like 10:30pm, so it was dark). October 2005. After a long flight from Amsterdam, the German and I arrived in the Atlanta airport. We were so anxious to make the 5 hour drive to mom’s house that we jumped in the rental and sped-off. The German drove away from the airport and said, “Which highway do you think it is?” “Got me!” So off we went. Only after 15 minutes did we realize that we were heading for downtown Atlanta and that we were surrounded by the craziest drivers on God’s green earth (I have been to Paris, Amsterdam, New York, and San Francisco, I do have some comparison material). The German yelled at me frantically, “Which way do I go!?”

“Sweetheart, I have no idea!”

“Where is the map?”

“In the trunk. Where you put it!”

As you can tell, it really only was a matter of time before one of us got a ticket. Several hours later, outside of Columbia, we were both getting a little tired. Suddenly I looked in the review mirror, and there were those blue lights flashing.

The German’s eyes got big. “What do I do?”

“Pull over.”

The German pulled over. The police woman walked up to the car.

“License and registration, please.”

I knew once she saw his German passport, license, and the rental car registration, that we would have to do some explaining.

“Where did you all come from?”

(I did all the talking) “We just flew into Atlanta and rented this car there. We are driving to visit my parents. He is my husband. He is German. I am American and from South Carolina.”

“Why do you live in Germany?”

Although question often irritates me, I thought it best to stay cool. “Because we like it there.” (Big smile from Claire)

“Can I see your license, Ms.?” I am not sure why she wanted mine. I mean I wasn’t driving.

At this point the German decided to pipe up. “What is wrong?”

“Sir, you were doing, 80.”

“No I wasn’t! The cruise control was set at 78!”

I snapped my head to look at the German. Through clench teeth I whispered, “Don’t argue with her!”

The officer went back to her car. She came back to us a few minutes later. She handed us all of our identification. “I will just give you a warning. Just be sure to slow down now.” Then she was off into the night, seeking out more law breakers. I looked down at the ticket and realized that the address was written all wrong. I started to chuckle, because I am quiet certain that the only reason we did not get a fine was because she could not read the German’s license.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get of my parking ticket by saying that I cannot read German. Some how I think the people around here are on to my German speaking capabilities.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I'm baaaack!

Back in C-burg that is! And I am lovin' it!

I am loving that I don't have to take a 45 minute bus to work. I am loving that I don't have the homeless guy who drinks boxed wine from the PennyMarkt starring at my legs as I go to the bus station every morning. I am loving that I can walk from the bank, to the post, to my office, to the bakery, without having to start training for a marathon.

I'm tellin' ya, manure never smelled so good.

On the other hand . . . I am not really loving that there are only 3 bars open on a Saturday night, and they all close early! I am also not loving that C-burgers have not discovered the beauty that is iced coffee. Seriously, it is 96 degrees outside. Why would I want a hot beverage?

Hamburg was a beautiful city. I highly recommend it. The German and I had a lovely 2nd anniversary, even though there was no air conditioning. We went to a swimming pool in Kellinghusen / Eppendorf, and it was fab. We ate lots of food and did stupid tourist things, like visit the Hamburg Dungeon, which is not scary, but managed to creep me out, as I am a scaredy cat.

My course went really well. I have gotten the results yet though. One criticism that I kept getting was about my voice. Apparently, I . . . talk . . . too . . . slow . . . and enunciate too much. Who knew that proper speech would be harmful to my career as an ESL teacher? I have tried to speed up, but I grew up in the South. I cannot help myself.

Now it is time to go back to my "normal program." No more insane hours and the return of my DSL! I am going to go visit my blogger friends tomorrow. It is enough to make a girl giddy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Have you ever . . . (also known as: Things that don’t happen in C-burg)

Have you ever . . . (also known as: Things that don’t happen in C-burg)

Have you ever gotten on a bus after working on the hottest day of the year when a fairly normal looking man gets on the bus and sits down next to you, but you quickly realize that the man smells like bug spray, so you move over a little to get away from the smell, only to have him move closer to you and then fall on you when ever the bus jerks to a stop, so you stare out the window in order to escape the smell and “go to your happy place,” and as you stare out the window you notice a man standing on his balcony in his bikini underwear drinking a beer and who appears to be fairly well endowed, which makes you laugh out loud, and then the bug spray man begins to stare at you as if YOU are the crazy one?

No? Maybe it is just me.

The German is coming up to H-town for the weekend. Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. Two years ago I made this most life changing decision. The thing I remember most about my wedding day was how calm I was, and how very certain that I was doing the right thing. This feeling has not changed.

Tomorrow is also the anniversary of the worst hangover I ever had. My tips for people about to get married: do not have your bachelorette party the night before your wedding and DO NOT let the woman who was known as the biggest partier in your sorority organize it. Don't worry, she is getting married in September and I am organizing her bachelorette party. Revenge will be mine! On the upside, I did learn that Mountain Dew is the hangover cure all.

The German and I do not have any special plans for the weekend. I just want to sleep, watch TV and go swimming. I am crossing my fingers that the hotel we found will have air conditioning, however I will not hold my breath.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Havin' a Heat Wave

Hamburg is really . . . hot. And I don’t mean in the Paris Hilton hot-means-cool kind of way. I consider myself a good southern gal. I can handle the heat. I got married in Charleston, SC . . . outside . . . in July . . . in a big, white dress. I know what it is like to work in the heat. But this is challenging even me.

I have determined that the problem is the lack of air conditioning. Air conditioning only exists in large department stores, some trains and buses, and the imaginations of crazy ex-pats. Germans are opposed to most things cold, which is why they don’t use ice in their beverages and you should always wear a t-shirt to cover your kidneys.

But I grew up with air conditioning. It never made me sick. In fact, in the summer, they might as well put up a tent over South Carolina and air condition the whole thing.

I really wish that they would realize the beauty of air conditioning. Through no power of my own, I have sweated off a few pounds in the past two weeks. That may seem great, but it has also affected my teaching and my students. By 7:00pm, NO ONE wants to be sitting in a sweltering room, staring at a teacher-in-training.

Last week I fell on my face while teaching, figuratively speaking of course. I did fall on my face once literally, but that is another story. Anyway, last week I had the daunting task of teaching “passive causative constructions,” which is a fancy way of saying “to have something done.” That did not go well. Tomorrow I am teaching simple present questions, such as “Who pays Ron?” I am hoping it will go better this time.

It is going to be about 36 degrees (about 93 F) tomorrow. I wanted to teach in my bathing suit, but I have a feeling that would influence my grade about “professionalism in the classroom.”